More Time…

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Caption: Photo taken by me from the passenger seat, on my way back to Chicago from Indiana.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I need more time…

More time to write. More time to read. More time to look around my mind.

People think that when you become an entrepreneur, you’re going to have more free time, but the reality is the exact opposite. 

The more successful your business becomes, the more obsessed and preoccupied you become.

The demand for your presence, your time and your space increases, and the reality is that your world becomes so much smaller.

My one year anniversary as a Full-Time Entrepreneur is quickly approaching and I have to say I’ve learned so much!

The word that keeps floating up to the top is intentionality.

When it comes to time, I’ve learned to try to “let go” of things that were out of my control. When things don’t go as planned, you acknowledge it, write a report about it (to force yourself to find the lesson) and then you move on…

I’ve learned to put out fires immediately because where there’s smoke, nine times out of ten a fuse has been lit that will lead to an explosion. Smell the smoke, water-down the fuse.

I’ve learned to communicate as much as possible on the front end. My goal everyday is to speak clearly and articulately to try to remove any room for miscommunication or misinterpretation. Both miscommunication & misinterpretation are time drainers. Make it clear and make it plain from the very beginning.

I’ve learned to filter the information (and the people) I share my time with. The things people say, the things people do and the energy they carry has a direct impact on everything & everyone surrounding them. If I spend too much time around someone who complains all the time, someone who is not interested in growing or someone who just sends bad vibes, it slows me down & it makes the days longer and the work – the things that must be done – harder.

I’ve learned to communicate my needs quickly and clearly. Whether that’s more time or whether that’s lack of interest on a project. Whether that’s a “yes,” or a “no.” No is complete sentence.

I’m stronger. I’m a better communicator. The “why” has always been clear. But now, I’m more clear on the “what,”. and the “how.” I’m committed to helping to build something that lasts longer than me on this planet. Something that will see the year of 3014 and because of that… I always feel like I’m running out of time…

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3 Reasons Why You Should Join Me at COSEBOC in Memphis

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 Caption: me presenting at “Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority’s Inc’s Golden Alert Town Hall Meeting w/ MC Lyte.” Photo by Juan Anthony Images.

In two weeks, I will be joining two of my Echoing Green – Black Male Achievement Fellows, to present at COSEBOC’s  (Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color) Annual Conference: A Gathering of Leaders in Memphis. Tennessee. 3 Reasons why I’m super excited about this:

#1. I am super inspired by the work of my co-fellows. William, is the founder of Village of Wisdom. At Village of Wisdom, they work with families to help youth develop the resiliency and self-confidence they need to navigate the academic opportunity gap. Alex, if the founder of The Anew School. The Anew School “takes African-American 7th and 8th grade boys to Ghana, West Africa for a two-year immersive experience, where we provide them a clean academic slate, free from stigmatizing labels such as “at-risk,” “free and reduced lunch,” etc.” When it comes to working with youth, we have to think more in terms of a systemwide approach if we are going to really move the need for black people in America. It’s not a conversation about whether we need to focus more on in-school experiences or out-of-school experiences or access to arts vs. access to athletics. Anyone or any organization that is seeking to improve the lives of black youth of color is doing important work, and the more that we can start collaborating and sharing, the better off our youth and our community will be. Learn more about the other equally inspiring BMA fellows here: http://www.echoinggreen.org/fellows?field_fellow_type_value=Black+Male+Achievement+Fellow.

#2. William. Alex and I are all former classroom teachers – so we understand the importance of what happens in the classroom. We also understand the challenges that educators and administrators face. The skills that I learned as a teacher are incredibly valuable and really translate well into my work as an Executive Director.

#3. Our session is entitled “Ring My Bell: Unleashing Your Inner Entrepreneur to Leverage Free Resources for Innovation.” We are excited to share what we’ve learned on our social-entrepreneur journey both individually and collectively. Innovation does not always have to cost an arm and a leg! Our interactive session will give those in our session a blueprint for finding and securing free resources.

Register for COSEBOC and learn more about the conference here: http://coseboc.org/annual-gathering. Be sure to say hello if you’re in attendance at the conference & follow the official hashtag;  for conference updates!

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When A Dream Comes Alive…

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Caption: Some of Donda’s House staff, volunteers and alumni at our Spring 2015 Auditions.

I woke up this morning, with Dr. Donda West on my mind. Dr. Donda West, is the woman who Donda’s House Inc. is named after. I always run into people whose life she impacted… new promoters who she gave a contract to. PH.D candidates who she co-presented at conferences with… young artists who she served as a surrogate mom to. I collect these stories & they cover my spirit like a quilt… A constant reminder of why Donda’s House Inc. was founded in the first place…

We are 19 months old now. I just prepared a Programming Update for our Programming Committee Co-Chairs and was brought to tears thinking about how far we’ve come. Common, in a speech at St. Sabina talked about how the higher the altitude the more difficult it is to breathe. But as you climb higher, you can see more clearly the top of the mountaintop. It’s important to look around and enjoy the view. The vision, is for Donda’s House to exist in every low-income community around the world. A safe space for youth to hang-out, learn, imagine and build new pathways. We’ve been working so hard, that we haven’t had a chance to stop and look around.

I am happy to say that we currently have free programs being offered in music, visual art, acting & film. We are working on programs in fashion, production and sound engineering, and photography. I know for certain the spirit of Dr. Donda West is alive and well in the work that we do and as we advocate & lobby for more support and resources for our students, I can certainly see the peak of the mountaintop.

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What’s Wrong With The Phrase “Power Couple?”

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Caption: Photo by Juan Anthony Images

Every time I hear the words “power couple” I cringe. Whether someone calls my husband and I that, or I hear someone else use those words, it never quite sits well with me. When it comes to “power,” I cannot help but think about the opposite end of the spectrum – disempower. There are many words that I love to claim… peace… balance… happiness… success., but “power” has never been on my list of desired characteristics or character traits. “Power” implies a separation from the people. It implies that someone (or a group of people) has “it” and others (usually a large group of people) don’t. I’m not interested in separating myself from people in that way. I don’t want people to look at me & think that I have something (power) that they do not…

Now don’t get me wrong… I do believe in influence… I do believe in platforms… I do believe in spokespersons… but all of those terms seem to be more communal in nature… Less aggressive… Less absolute… Less rigid… and even influence, platforms and spokespersons should be cushioned in community, owned by the people and treated with grace, humility and responsibility.

I’m much more interested in being an EMPOWERED Couple… I believe that my physical frame is just that. A temporary “uniform” to house my soul & my energy. “Power” in my opinion comes from God and God EMPOWERS us to do what he needs/wants us to do. I did not wake myself up this morning… I did not have the POWER to do that. As the Executive Director of a non-profit, the students that I serve and the team that I belong to EMPOWERS me by ALLOWING me to serve as a midwife to their dreams and goals. That POWER belongs to them, so they EMPOWER me… Our TEAM is one in which everyone feels EMPOWERED to do whatever needs to be done to fulfill our mission. It’s not beholden to one individual (including me).

To me EMPOWERMENT is a much healthier descriptor of who we are and what we stand for. It is much more symbiotic than hierarchical. It is much more accessible than hoarded and hidden. We need more empowered couples if we want to have healthier relationships/marriages, healthier families and healthier communities. #EMPOWEREDCOUPLE

Speaking of empowering, check out my hubby’s new website: WhoIsRhymefest.com designed by one of our Donda’s House alums Hex Hectic!

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Happy 5th Year Anniversary Che!!!

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Caption: Our first photo together ever, the first weekend that we met in person after a month of talking on the phone. January of 2009. Che actually came to visit & speak to my class at Whitney Young!
I think it’s totally appropriate and kind of symbolic that our five year Wedding Anniversary is on Election Day! When we met on Twitter in January of 2009, I never knew that behind that @rhymefest Twitter handle was my future best friend and husband. Today is also especially important, because we were both married before to other people for 5 years – so this is a huge milestone for us!

5 Things You Said That I’ll Never Forget

1. “Forget choose your battles! Choose your enemies, because then you already know what battles are ahead of you.”
2. “The definition of revolution is love.”
3. “Sometimes we have to be the blade that sharpens the steel.”
4. “You’re not a girlfriend, you’re a wife. You’re going to be my wife.”
5. “Everybody wants to be “hot,” but what’s “hot” eventually cools off. I want to be dope, because dope lasts forever.”

5 Adventures I’ll Never Forget

1. Horseback riding in Florida, when our horses decided to take off running fast and we had to hold on for dear life.
2. Being angry about the state of our community (which was Washington Park) and deciding that we could do better and launching our Campaign for Alderman of the 20th Ward less than one year after being married! That campaign was a hell of a honeymoon lol!
3. When you used to do the “VS” game on Twitter before we started talking on the phone. I used to break my neck to participate, everyday around 5 or 5:30 p.m. CST.
4. Driving around Beverly Hills & Santa Monica in the Camaro with the top down.
5. The water fights we used to have in our first apartment together.

5 Things I Love About You

1. How much you give of yourself, your talent and your time to others.
2. Your laugh and your sense of humor. We have so many inside jokes that sometimes all you have to do is look at me and I know exactly what you’re thinking.
3. Your creativity. You are the KING of ideas!
4. Your masculinity. Your motorcycle riding! The base in your voice. Your collection of Timbs.
5. Your mind. You have a beautiful mind. You are so reflective. You know so much about the world because you’ve traveled the world. I love hearing your stories about getting lost in Palestine, seeing Civil Rights murals in Northern Ireland, riding the train and eating Pigeon in London. I never tire of hearing you tell stories!

5 Things I’m Looking Forward To

1. Going half on a baby at some point in the future. We have three little angels in heaven that will one day carry our baby (or babies) into this world safely. I can’t wait to see what he/she/they get(s) from me and what he/she/they get(s) from you.
2. Traveling. We have so much fun when we travel. We don’t worry about money, or time, we just go & do & feel & experience.
3. Our projects. We have so many seeds that we’re watering and feeding. I’m excited to see the fruit & the plants flourish.
4. Our children & one day grandchildren grow up. I can’t wait to see my bonus (step) babies grow up and become their own forces of nature on the world.
5. “Raising” Donda’s House into a full-grown, international organization for young creatives.

5 Ways that You’ve Impacted Me

1. You’ve supported me as I’ve made the transition from a traditional job to a social entrepreneur.
2. You’ve helped me to be better at debate & helped me step outside of my comfort zone on so many occasions. Outside of the comfort zone is where true growth happens.
3. You’ve shown me that two broken and hurt people can create a beautiful, powerful whole! We patched each other up and loved each other to health.
4. Because of you I know that God is real. Our love is miracle, and God sent us to each other to help keep us on the path that he set out for us. While our love is amazing and the greatest gift I’ve ever received, I know that it doesn’t stop there. We were sent here for something far greater than just loving each other.
5. When I look at before Che & after Che photos and journal entries I realize that I’m a better woman today! A more confident, acne-free, smaller, happier woman. I’m a reflection of you, and you are a reflection of God, and I’m so grateful for these last five years.
To Forever!!!! I love you baby!
Yours Always,
Donnie Nicole Smith

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“Dying Roses” by Che “Rhymefest” Smith

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Guest post by Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Follow him here: https://twitter.com/rhymefest

Leaving 2014 there were so many signs of change on the horizon.
Political and Social upheaval happening locally, nationally and worldwide.
Acts of Terrorism, Protests, Police brutality, Political Changing of Gaurds, and constantly evolving technologies daring all of us to keep up.
I have no doubt coming into 2015 the pace at which the world is moving is entirely to fast for those of us who are trying to make it through another day.
Recently I’ve been witnessing the effects of this complex world on the people I love.
Men and Women, Friends and Family.
Every day I get a call or text about sadness, confusion, loneliness depression and even thoughts of suicide.
I’m not a therapist or professional and admittedly unqualified to deal with such burdens in a way that can give sustainable treatment.
I am however a good friend, who will not abandon you, nor enable you to continue feeling sorry for yourself.
My loved ones all have so much going for them and panic over what they perceive is missing.
Many of them don’t even know what’s missing which creates even more loneliness and anxiety.
I see friends and family who try to replace personal emptiness with sexual partners, drugs, religion, Money, careers and even seclusion.
2015 should be the year we protect our spirits.
There is an Attack taking place on good people. It’s trying to enter our homes our family members and us.
Be vigilant and fight back with kind acts, selflessness and socializing with other good people.

1) Anxiety- try to calm down, breathe deep and slow. If it’s to bad please go to urgent care and see a doctor.

2) Depression- don’t debate the judge in your head he wants you to engage him so he can convince you you’re not as good and capable as you know you are. He only knocks for 30-60 seconds before he goes away find a something to take your mind away when he comes to judge. You can win every time.

3) Loneliness- find a social group or hobby get out the house. Internet will make you more depressed find a group of real people to collaborate with.

4) Suicidal Thoughts- don’t emotionally minipulate others for attention this is the worst thing you can do! It’s Despicable. suicide is an act of temporary insanity and if you feel that way please go consult a professional. Your friends and family can’t help you. You need a professional.

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Coming Up For Air Really Quick

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Hey everyone! I hope all is well. Can you believe that there are only 2 days left of this month?

I’ve been working a lot professionally. This month has been all about fundraising, proposal writing, and preparing for our Spring 2015 Programs. For the first time ever, we are launching two cohorts at once, a program for High School Students and a program for 18+. We welcomed two new staff members, and have been working on a lot of our internal communication systems. I start my days at about 9 or 10 in the morning and lately have been working until 12 midnight.

In terms of balance, I try to have at least one day a week where I don’t leave my house. I still work – conference calls, applications and proposals, etc., but I do so from the comfort of my home at least one day a week. Since our programming is after school and on Saturdays, we have events on one or two Saturdays next month, and one of our classes will meet on Saturday afternoons. I have reserved Sundays for family time. My in-loves (we don’t use the term in-laws) recently moved closer to Chicago, so I try to spend at least my Sunday afternoons and evenings with them.

I did discover a few new tools that I want to share:

We are using Formstack https://www.formstack.com to manage our applications and other important forms. It’s not a free tool but it is reliable, has really strong analytics. Every time we release apps, we’ve used a different tool. Formstack is very popular with other organizations.

I am now using Calendly to help schedule meetings. Basically, you have your own appointment page, and it syncs with your Google Calendar. Rather than going back and forth with someone on availability, I can simply send them a link to my Calendly based on my availability and the meeting can be scheduled without much hassle. Here its he link: https://calendly.com. Calendly is free and low cost.

I shared this beauty on my Instagram Page:

Be Fabulous 2

I’ve never seen a desktop wallpaper that allows you to separate files. I downloaded it for free here: http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/2014/03/a-fabulously-organized-desktop.html.

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